Friday, June 18, 2010

Wrestling with the No-sleep Monster

We had trouble getting our first child to sleep almost from the get-go.

She was a nursing baby, but she rarely nursed to sleep. Oh no - life was too interesting. She'd finish nursing and then blink up at me as if to say, "Okay, Mom, what next?"

Then it was Dad's turn. He had the "magic shoulder". He would walk with her... and walk with her... and walk with her... When it looked like she was asleep, he'd stop walking and look down, holding his breath and hoping. But she would lift her head and look at him as if to say, "Okay Daddy, what next?" Eventually, she really would fall asleep and we would both breathe a sigh of relief. And if we were very, very lucky, she would stay asleep when we laid her down in her crib.

She was very good at sleeping, once asleep. At 3 months old, she would sleep 11 hours at a stretch. This routine lasted until she was 6 months old. Suddenly, it got harder and harder to get her to fall asleep at night. Her bedtime slipped from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., then midnight, then 2 a.m. Soon she was falling asleep at 5:30 in the morning and sleeping until 4:30 in the afternoon. She'd watch TV with me all night and wake up in time to see Dad walk in the door from work.

This was not ideal for us. We picked up books on how to get a baby to sleep and tried the "crying it out" routine. The first night, she cried for 3 hours (and so did I) before finally falling asleep. The second night, it took 45 minutes. After that, only 10.

We thought we had fixed the problem, until we visited my parents' house or the baby got a cold. Any change in routine and we had to start all over again. It was painful for all of us.

It wasn't until our daughter was 2 that we finally found a solution. By this time, she was sleeping in a grown-up-sized bed with a wall on one side and a protective railing on the other. We had our little bedtime routine - reading a book together, singing a song - then lights out. I would cuddle with her under the covers and then I would say good-night. Then, no matter what she said or did, I didn't respond. I was pretending to be asleep. (Of course I would respond if she became truly agitated for some reason, but that never happened).

She would babble for a few minutes, then play with my face, then lay quietly,and finally, after about 10 minutes and 2 distinct yawns, she would fall asleep. When I was sure she was sleeping soundly, I would slip out from under the covers and go spend the rest of the evening with my husband.

I loved having this special time with my child, just the two of us. It left us both with a feeling of security and love. There is nothing like a peaceful bedtime routine for living happily ever after.

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